It all started with tips from now former iHeartMedia employees that they were being pink slipped in several markets throughout the country (we’ve received the same tips from now former CBS employees). It leaves many people in the radio industry scratching their heads, wondering just how deep you can cut into these companies and deliver a product the consumer continues to love. Then, it was time for CEO’s from some of radio’s public companies to start reporting first quarter earnings. And, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of happy talk.
As Facebook was reporting a 51 percent increase in revenue ($8 Billion) in the quarter, radio executives were struggling with how to explain why they were either flat or down without those piles of political ad revenue from 2016 to help prop them up. While everyone in the industry knows the first quarter is traditionally radio’s weakest, there was no clear signal from any of the CEO’s that reported that things will pick up all that much moving forward. In addition to the stories that follow, here’s a sample of what we heard yesterday.
- When asked, ‘Why the softness?’ Radio One CEO Alfred Liggins said, “I don’t know the answer” (Radio One is pacing down in Q2).
- Saga CEO Ed Christian said “Flat being the up for radio is back in play” (Saga says pacing is uncertain and unpredictable).
- iHeartMedia CFO Richard Bressler repeatedly stated how surprised the company was with the softness of the ad market (iHeart is pacing down in Q2).
On the positive side, Radio Ink’s 2017 Independent Operator issue set for release on May 22, includes in-depth interviews with five Independent Operators across the country. We discuss how they succeed and make money at radio every day, how they keep good employees and what advertisers are saying about radi in their markets. Here’s a sample from Impact Radio Group CEO Darrell Calton.
“The best part of being an independent is the ability to move fast. There are situations almost weekly that we can respond quickly as decision making is done on the spot and we trust our managers to make them without having to chase down the GM or myself. Of course there is a framework for the types of decisions that require approval but for the most part our folks get it right.
“Whether it is counter programming to something a competitor has just done, strategic situational opportunities that pop up or employee emergencies of almost any type, we are prepared to deal with whatever it is and move on. Understanding that our people are the greatest assets we have is key. While there is nothing wrong with being part of a corporate environment, there is no denying that it is a different culture.
“We used to have a great football coach here in Boise. His name is Chris Peterson, now with the Washington Huskies. Coach Peterson has a philosophy which he boils down to this. Create a culture where everyone knows the end vision and recruit OKGs (Our kind of guy or our kind of gal). Because of the pace we work we need OKGs that are able to bring teamwork, coach-ability, communication, drive and passion to win to the table. With an independent we are free to asses and create the type of culture we want but more importantly change it when it stalls or does not work. That is a much harder process on a corporate level.”